Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy has hailed the constitution of the Cauvery Management Authority and the regulation committee notified by the Centre as a victory for Tamil Nadu and Leader of the Opposition M K Stalin has given it a qualified welcome. However, Pattali Makkal Katchi leader S Ramadoss, in a studied response, has said it will only take the issue back to square one as it is not the final authority as envisaged by the tribunal and the Supreme Court.
Dr Ramadoss has cited the provision which says that in case any State defies the directions of the authority, it will take it to the Centre. Farmers association leader Ayyakkan has said that with the Centre retaining administrative control over the authority, decisions in event of a dispute over water sharing will be based on political considerations and it will naturally be favour of Karnataka as the Congress and the BJP have bases in these States whereas they have no presence in Tamil Nadu.
Dr Ramadoss has Karnataka has defied even the Supreme Court directives on water release even in distress situations. It can hardly be expected to honour the directions of the authority which does not have sufficient power to enforce its directions. Stalin, without going in detail into the issue, has said that there is an authority in place, the focus should be on implementation and the State Government should order a release of water from Mettur on June 12 to help the delta farmers to take up kuruvai cultivation.The CPM State secretary Balakrishnan has said the Centre taken a half-hearted measure to form the authority under compulsion from the Supreme Court and has not given it enough power to enforce its orders.
The contentious clauses relate to the power of the authority, set up to give effect to the final order of the tribunal as modified by the Supreme Court in its final judgment of Feb 16. The Centre has formed the authority by extracting the Feb 16 order which implies that its scheme has the approval of the Supreme Court. The draft scheme had said that in the event of a dispute, the authority would refer to the Centre and its decision would be final. That clause has been removed by the Supreme Court.
The notification, therefore, says: “If the authority finds any of the governments of the States, namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and the Union Territory of Puducherry, do not co-operate in implementing the decision or direction of the tribunal, it can seek the help of the Central Government for implementing the award”. The GO does not say anywhere that the authority will have the final say. Now does it specify what will be the role of the Centre in such a situation. However, it has bestowed the authority with sufficient supervisory control over the reservoirs in the basin States.
The GO says that the authority” shall have such power and shall discharge such duty to do any or all things necessary, sufficient and expedient for securing compliance and implementation of the award of the tribunal as modified by the Supreme Court order dated Feb 16 . The powers and functions include storage, apportionment and control of Cauvery waters, supervision of operations of the reservoirs and regulation of water releases therefrom with the assistance of the regulation committee”.It will also regulate release by Karnataka, at the inter-state contact point presently identified as Billigundulu gauging and discharge station located on the Karnataka-Tamil Nadu border.
It will at the beginning of the water year, namely June 1, will determine the residual storage in each reservoir. It will decide the season’s flow on the basis of 50 per cent dependable year( namely 740 t.m.c). The share of each State will be determined on the basis of flows so assumed together with available carry-over in the reservoirs. In case of monsoon failure, the distress sharing as per the tribunal formula will be calculated and the water will accordingly allocate to each State. The authority will also have control over any gauging stations in the basin for the proper exercise of its jurisdictions and powers. It can also direct any state to build additional gauging stations.